Drinking Salt Water Causes Dehydration

459 words | 2 page(s)

Salt is an essential nutrient to the body as it serves numerous functions including the maintenance of a constant body environment (homeostasis) and acting as electrolytes that conduct electrical impulses throughout the body. However, intake of too much salt can be detrimental to the body as it causes dehydration (Joesten, wood, & Castellion, 2010). Water, on the other hand, is also essential as is the primary and universal solvent in the body. Dehydration from the ingestion of sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl−) ions contained in salt occurs through a process called osmosis. Osmosis is the movement of solvent (water) molecules from a more dilute region (hypotonic) into a more concentrated solution (hypertonic) through a semipermeable membrane such as a cell wall.

According to Batmanian, Worrall & Ridge (2012), for osmosis to occur, some factors have to be present. First, the membrane has to be semipermeable in that the solute`s molecules cannot pass through its pores as they are larger, unlike the solvent`s molecules. Second, the osmotic pressure or the pressure required to stop water from flowing towards a region of high solute concentration in an aqueous solution has to be lower on the dilute side of the membrane. I a scenario, the movement of water through osmotic flow continues until the pressure exerted on the semipermeable membrane balances with the osmotic pressure.

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Samuel Taylor, a once great English poet once wrote a poem about stranded mariners, “water water everywhere but not a drop to drink”( as cited in Joesten et al., 2010, p. 228). This phrase means that although there is abundant water in the ocean, it is a thirsty solution and cannot sustain human life because sea water is more concentrated with dissolved than human bodily fluids which are more dilute. Joesten et al. (2012) postulate that ingesting too much salt or seawater without drinking fresh water would result in elevated sodium levels in the blood which would trigger intracellular water loss trough osmosis since salt molecules are impermeable to the cell wall.

The body attempts to maintain homeostasis by getting rid of the excess salt through urination but the urine produced is more concentrated than the salt water ingested thus creating an even greater imbalance and thirst. Seawater causes dehydration in the gastronomical tract through osmosis by drawing water from the adjacent cells due its higher concentration of salt molecules than the cell cytoplasm. This water is in turn lost through esophageal excretion. Therefore, people consuming seawater to quench thirst end up with more and more salt and less water in the body and would eventually die (Batmanian et al., 2012).

  • Batmanian, L., Worrall, S., & Ridge, J. (2012). Biochemistry for health professionals. Sydney: Mosby Elsevier.
  • Joesten, M. D., Wood, J. L., & Castellion, M. E. (2010). The world of chemistry: Essentials. Belmont, CA: Thomson-Brooks/Cole.

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